In the early morning hours of June 1, 1974, Brenda Carol Ball became Ted Bundy's fifth official murder victim when he stole her life from her.
It was Memorial Day weekend and on that Friday, May 31, 1974, she told her roommates around 2 p.m. that she was planning to go to the Flame Tavern, a neighborhood bar, and then try to catch a ride to Sun Lakes. Sun Lakes, located east of Seattle, was a popular campground and park area where the friends planned to spend the weekend. It was the last time her roommates would see Brenda.
The Flame Tavern, while very familiar to Brenda and her friends, was a tough, basically seedy, neighborhood joint that routinely received complaints about the rowdy patrons' noise levels and frequent fistfights that broke out in the parking lot. Missing persons last seen at the Flame, as the locals dubbed it, was not an uncommon occurrence for local police.
Brenda may or may not have known that a week earlier, another young woman had a frightening encounter down the street from the Flame, at Brubeck's Topless Bar.
The young woman, Vicky, was similar to Brenda. She was in her early twenties, petite and with long dark hair she parted in the middle. She had left her car in the lot while she went inside to meet friends. Around midnight, she returned to her only to find that it wouldn't start. Her friends offered to drive her home and she accepted. She returned around 4 a.m., not wanting to leave her car -- a convertible -- vulnerable in the now-empty lot and hoped it would start. A handsome young man walked around from behind Brubeck's as she tried to crank it. He too tried to start the car, without luck, and then offered to drive her to a friend's place that had the necessary jumper cables that he assured Vicky would start the car. She never thought to wonder what the man would have been doing at Brubeck's at that hour, long after the bar had closed.
When police later examined Vicki's car, the found the distributor cap had been pulled, intentionally disabling the vehicle. If anyone then made a connection between Vicky's abduction and the missing girls, it was not noted in the police report or any newspaper accounting. Of course Vicky wasn't a college age girl on or around campus. She didn't fit the perp's type. At least not so far as anyone knew.
Brenda had been to the Flame many times and had friends who hung out there. She lived in the area and knew it like the back of her hand. She had no cause for concern and, indeed, on that Friday evening, she appeared her usual good-natured self to others at the Flame.
She apparently had a good time, staying until closing time -- 2 a.m. She asked one of the musicians for a lift but he demurred as he was going in the opposite direction. It was reported that she was a little worried about finding a ride but Brenda was known to hitchhike on occasion. Later, patrons of the Flame stated she was both hitchhiking in the early morning of Saturday, June 1 and, in the Flame parking lot, chatting with man wearing his arm in a sling. Then she disappeared.
When Brenda didn't show up at Sun Lakes, her roommates felt little cause for alarm. She was known to be an impulsive adventurer; they assumed she had met up with other friends or taken off elsewhere for the weekend. Because her life was mostly unstructured and largely unconventional, nearly three weeks passed before her roommates reported her missing. During that time, Brenda had not returned to their shared apartment, collected any of her belongings, touched her bank account or made contact with her parents, who lived nearby.
Brenda didn't fit the mold of the other missing girls. She was the oldest to date, she had been out drinking and was known to take off on whims (something that second victim Donna Manson was also subject to do.) She didn't vanish from a college setting and some felt she did not fall prey to the same malevolent force the other girls had.
It was only the grisly discovery of three human skulls and one lower mandible on Taylor Mountain in March of 1975 that would confirm that Brenda too had fallen victim to the-then unnamed predator that would eventually be identified as Ted Bundy. Brenda's skull was the first discovered; it had suffered terrible blunt force trauma, resulting in cracks.
According to Ted, Brenda voluntarily accompanied him from the Flame and back to his Seattle rooming house. The sex, he said, was "more or less" consensual. He claimed that it was after Brenda had passed out or gone to sleep that he had given in to his urges and strangled her. He never mentioned how her skull was cracked.
But Ted was a liar. He told different stories at different times. It's possible that Brenda did accompany him willingly to his car and his home, looking for some company that night, not knowing that she had gotten into a vehicle with a cruel, depraved killer. It's possible that Brenda got into his car, believing she would be dropped off at safely at home. It's also possible that, like other victims, she was blitzed in the parking lot, hit a devastating blow with a crowbar, and was unconscious or dead as she was driven away from the Flame. Like the other victims, only her head was taken to Taylor Mountain. Her body has never been recovered.
Brenda was a pretty girl and one who friends would later say was sweet and caring. She hadn't yet found her place in the world, but at only twenty-two, she should have had plenty of time to find it . . . had she not crossed paths with Ted Bundy.
As a postscript, while watching the news more than a year after her attack, Vicki saw the man she claims abducted and assaulted her. It was Ted Bundy.
Brenda Carol Ball
November 4, 1951 - June 1, 1974